A woman has gone to Facebook to accuse former Mayor Mike Bell of inappropriately touching her at a Toledo bar Friday night, allegations Mr. Bell denies.
Allison Dow, 29, of Toledo’s Old West End, said Mr. Bell made an unwelcome sexual comment and touched her buttocks late Friday at Wesley’s Bar & Grill on Adams Street in downtown Toledo.
Ms. Dow put her outraged reaction on Facebook, calling Mr. Bell, 60, “a perverted old man.”
Mr. Bell, who is running for mayor again, on Tuesday denied the allegations, suggesting a political motive.
Ms. Dow is a former office manager for the Lucas County Democratic Party, which has endorsed Paula Hicks-Hudson for the job Mr. Bell is seeking.
“I was standing at the bar ordering a drink and someone came up behind me and put his hand on my lower back and whispers, ‘If you stand up on your tiptoes in that dress, me and my friends will pass out,’ and he lowered his hand to my butt,” Ms. Dow told The Blade Tuesday.
“He pulled that same move with several other people at that bar,” she said.
Ms. Dow took her complaints about the former mayor, who is among the seven candidates on the Nov. 3 ballot, to her Facebook page starting Saturday morning and continuing through the weekend.
“I’m really upset that I can’t go to the bar without having pervy old men twice my age grab me and touch me and telling grossly inappropriate things,” Ms. Dow wrote on her Facebook page. “Especially when one of them is running for mayor.”
Mr. Bell, a former city fire chief and city mayor from 2010 through 2013, and a bachelor who has a reputation for patronizing Toledo’s night life, told The Blade he did not know Ms. Dow and did not recall speaking with her on Friday night.
“That is a lie. I had no conversation with her, did not know who she was until somebody told me. Somebody said, did you know this woman is writing about you,” Mr. Bell said. He said he was at Wesley’s and at Manos Greek Restaurant, also on Adams, because he was trying to interact with young people.
“If anybody’s at the bar, I always speak to everybody. I don’t do anything inappropriate. I’m more than aware that I’m a public official,” Mr. Bell said.
“I just find it strange that this happens on the same day that I turned my petitions in.”
The posting erupted — on Facebook and by commenters to The Blade’s story about the allegations on toledoblade.com — into a discussion on Mr. Bell’s history of going to bars and talking to women, as well as the topic of unwanted physical contact and harassment.
Micah Risher, owner of Wesley’s, said he was there Friday and did not witness anything inappropriate.
“None of my staff received any complaints,” Mr. Risher said. “I saw him interact with a lot of people. He hugged a lot of men. He hugged a lot of women — just being very friendly and having fun at a bar.”
Initially, Ms. Dow did not name Mr. Bell but later posted: “Mike Bell is a sleaze bag.”
“He walked right up to me, put his arm around me, and told me if I stood on my tiptoes in that dress, he and his friends would all pass out. Then I saw him grab at least three other women’s [buttocks] while I was there. I took pics,” she wrote on Facebook.
Ms. Dow told a Blade reporter by text message late Friday night before she went to Facebook that Mr. Bell “grabbed at least eight women while I was there.”
She changed the story Tuesday and said he did that to “at least 10 women.”
“I saw him go up to more than 10 girls in less than an hour,” she told The Blade on Tuesday. “I wasn’t even there an hour.”
She added: “This is his reputation. It is one of womanizing.”
Ms. Dow later clarified by saying, “I have pictures of him grabbing three women. I saw him touching at least eight or 10 inappropriately. That’s not the point ... it doesn’t matter how many women he touched. Men touch women in a bar, and it is something we all put up with.”
‘Just hit on me’
Ms. Dow first told a Blade reporter via text message at 11:58 p.m. Friday about her encounter with Mr. Bell.
“Mike Bell just hit on me,” she texted.
The next morning, she added: “I started snapping [pictures] of him grabbing ladies,” though none of her pictures showed that.
Ms. Dow on Saturday morning claimed Mr. Bell did not know the woman pictured and that he was “grabbing her and whispering in her ear.”
Ms. Dow posted two pictures of Mr. Bell. The first showed him and a woman smiling at each other with another person in the shot. The former mayor does not appear to be touching the women.
Ms. Dow contended Mr. Bell was looking down the woman’s dress. Mr. Bell said he was looking down toward her because she is shorter than he.
The second picture shows Mr. Bell and a woman hugging. He declined to identify the woman he was hugging. The Blade identified the woman in one of the pictures as Tonya Reiter.
Ms. Reiter contested Ms. Dow’s claims about the former mayor.
Allison Dow posted this photo of former Mayor Mike Bell and a woman in Wesley’s Bar & Grill in Toledo on Facebook. She texted a Blade reporter that Mr. Bell had hit on her. The woman in the picture said Bell did not act inappropriate.
FACEBOOK/ALLISON DOW Enlarge
“Mike Bell spent most of his time with me and most of my friends — there was no groping,” she told The Blade. “I didn’t see him with any of the other women. I have met him out many other occasions, professionally and after hours, and he has never been inappropriate.”
Ms. Reiter said the other woman — whose face cannot be seen — is also a friend of Mr. Bell, and they were having a conversation.
Mr. Bell filed signature petitions on Friday to run for mayor in the Nov. 3 special election to fill the two years remaining in the term of Mayor D. Michael Collins, who died Feb. 6.
Also in the race, besides Mayor Hicks-Hudson and Mr. Bell, are evangelist Opal Covey, former city councilman Mike Ferner, former Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, Mr. Collins’ widow Sandy Drabik Collins, and Councilman Sandy Spang.
There will be no primary, so if all seven candidates are certified to the ballot, they will all run against each other.
Mayor Hicks-Hudson said she knows Ms. Dow as a “good Democrat” but said she is not associated with her campaign or still employed by the Democratic Party.
“She is not an operative in any sense of the matter. It’s unfortunate for her to feel she had to [accuse Mr. Bell] and for it to happen. My reaction is it’s an unfortunate situation regardless whether it did or didn’t happen.
“We should be looking at the issues that are really affecting our city,” Ms. Hicks-Hudson said.
Joshua Hughes, the chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party executive committee, said Ms. Dow left the party’s employ in May after working there about a year.
Mrs. Collins said she knew only what she read of The Blade’s coverage and declined to comment further.
Mr. Ferner said, “It’s a serious allegation, and it should be taken seriously, but I’m not going to pass judgment on anybody without knowing all the facts.”
Likewise, Mr. Finkbeiner said: “I reserve comment until the facts of this case are better known.”
Ms. Spang did not return phone calls seeking comment.